Friday, September 28, 2012

Tulsa sign artist Sam Karney dies at 86

Karney didn't need a sign to tell him the score. Although he would've
preferred a life of drawing and painting, he knew he also needed to pay
the bills.

Looking for a trade he could live on, the recent art school graduate found it with Claude Neon Federal Sign Co. in Tulsa.

There, in helping new companies make their marks on the marketplace, Karney made his own in a new medium.

Among his early projects, Karney designed the sign for the original QuikTrip store, at 5204 S. Peoria Ave., in 1958.

Other businesses on the rise - including Ken's Pizza, later to become
Mazzio's, and Drysdale's Western Wear - also came to Karney over the

"He was really proud of the Drysdale's sign," his son Casey Karney said. "It was the biggest he had done.

"It was close to our home, and he liked to drive by there and show it to me."

A longtime Tulsa resident and artist who worked for and later bought Claude Neon, Samuel A. "Sam" Karney died Friday. He was 86.

A memorial service was held Tuesday at Bethany Freewill Baptist Church
in Broken Arrow under the direction of Floral Haven Funeral Home of
Broken Arrow.

After graduating from high school in Muskogee, his hometown, Karney joined the Army and fought in World War II.

A member of the 89th Infantry Division's 353rd Regiment, he served from 1944 to 1948 in Belgium, Austria, France and Germany.

After his discharge, he came home and went to art school in Sarasota, Fla.

Hiring on with Claude Neon in the mid-1950s, Karney worked as an artist and salesman for the company.

An early highlight was working with QuikTrip.

According to QuikTrip co-founder Chester Cadieux, Karney was responsible for the decision to spell it "Quik," and not "Quick."

Karney recommended it, noting that the four-letter "Quik" balanced better with "Trip" visually.

Working for Claude Neon for 20 years on various projects, Karney later joined with two partners to buy the business.

An active member and past president of both the Tulsa Executive
Association and the Oklahoma Sign Association, Karney sold his part in
the business and retired in the late 1990s.

Casey Karney said his father developed a shrewd business mind and shared
it with his children, helping them, too, to become successful.

But Karney was still an artist at heart.

In his spare time, he enjoyed drawing cartoons, many of which appeared in local publications.

He also got into sculpting and, over the years, made a number of bronzes, his son said.

Karney's survivors include his four children, Kip Karney, Casey Karney,
Cindy Jordan and Amy Hatfield; eight grandchildren; and two

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